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Full text of "Memoir of Nathaniel Macon, of North Carolina [electronic resource]"



6' 






MEMOIR 



NATHANIEL MACON, 



OF 



NORTH CAROLINA, 



BY 



W EL DON N. EDWARDS. 



RALEIGH: 

RALEIGH REGISTER STREAM POWER PRESS. 

1862. 




LIBRARY OF 




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i l ilfi K i ft f i li l fi lrtriftM i lilil rt h l rtMrtM l rtW ili M il i l ilrt fl ft lif i fi m 



MEMOIR 



UF 



NATHANIEL MACON, 



OP 



NORTH CAROLINA. 



BY 

WELDON N. EDWARDS. 



RALEIGH: 
RALEIGH REGISTER STEAM POWER PRESS. 

1862. 



COPYRIGHT SECURED ACCORDING TO LAW, 



To Wm. Baton, Jr. : 

Sir — Knowing the profound veneration and abiding affection always enter- 
tained by you for your grandfather, the late N. Macon, of North Carolina; and 
persuaded that his virtues and principles have found a worthy representative in 
the grandson, I feel a pride in addressing to you the following pages. Their pre- 
paration has been, to me, "a labor of love," and I indulge the hope that I have 
presented his character fairly and truthfully to the world, and placed before the 
American youth the model of a statesman and patriot that will challenge admira- 
tion throughout all time. I take great pleasure in the opportunity the occasion 
affords of assuring you. of the high consideration and cordial esteem and regard, 

With which I am, 

Your friend, 

W. N. EDWARDS. 
Poplar Mount, N. C, ) 
6th July, 1862. j 



J5®~ It is proper that the Publisher of the following: Memoir should state that. 
the paper on which it i? printed is not of as good quality as the Author desired. 
After a diligent search, however, it has been found to be the best in color and tox- 
turc that can now be procured. 

The Copyright of the Memoir, as will be seen, has been secured; but not for the 
pecuniary benefit of its Author, whose sole object in writing it was, to pay a 
tribute of admiration and respect to the memory of one of the purest and best 
men that ever lived in any age or country. 

PUBLISHER. 



\THANIEL MACON, 



It is cause of profound thankfulness, that the good and the 
wise, with whose presence we are blessed in this life, to guicte 
us in the paths of virtue, when they are no more, leave behind 
them lessons and examples full of instruction. To give to these 
enduring form, and to hold them up as a mirror of life, by a 
truthful picture of the lives and manners of their authors, is 
a service of inappreciable value to mankind; and, at the same 
time, but a just tribute to the illustrious dead. The subject of 
this memoir may be justly classed among those whose virtues 
deserve to be thus commemorated. 

Nathaniel Macon was born on the 17th of December, 1758, 
in the county of Bute, of the then province of North Carolina, 
in that part of it now Warren, within a few miles of the present 
village of Warrenton, of poor and respectable parents. His 
great-grandfather was a Huegonot, and came over from France 
to escape the persecutions consequent upon the revocation of 
the Edict of Nantz, in 1685. His father, Gideon H. Macon, 
was born in Virginia, whence he came to North Carolina. His 
mother was a native of North Carolina, and a daughter of 
Edward Jones, of Shocco. He lost his father in early boyhood, 
and was left, with many brothers and sisters, in the care of his 
widowed mother, with such moderate means of support as to 
require the utmost care and industry to get on even tolerably 
in the woi^d. He assisted in all the domestic offices and labors 
common with boys at that day. lie acquired the rudiments of 
education in the neighborhood, at what was then called an 
" Old-field School." The application, progress and good habits 
of the boy gave such promise of the future man, that it was 



6 

resolved to make every effort to give him a thorough education ; 
and he was accordingly cent to Princeton College, New Jersey. 
His own inclinations eagerly seconded the hopeful purpose of 
his friends. While there, he prosecuted his studies with fond 
diligence, and sought all the avenues to useful knowledge with 
unflagging zeal. Nor did he relax his efforts in this respect 
after his return home — devoting to such books as were within 
his reach all the time he could spare from the ordinary duties 
of life; hut he met with great difficulties, owing to the scarcity 
of books and his own poverty. In the latter part of his life, 
he was often heard to say, that his eyesight failed him sooner 
-*han it otherwise would have done, in consequence of his reading 
so much by fire-light in his youth and early manhood — being 
then too poor to buy candles — his small patrimony having been 
exhausted during his minority in his support and education. 

His love for North Carolina was sincere and thorough. In 
all that concerned her character — her institutions — her welfare, 
he felt an ever wakeful solicitude. Although he received his 
collegiate education in a distant State, he ever after gave a 
decided preference to the seminaries of his own loved North 
Carolina. When his son-in-law, William Eaton, Sen'r, in the 
year 1823, was about to send two of his sons to Cambridge, he 
dissuaded him from it, and advised him to send them to the 
University of North Carolina; because, among other reasons, 
they would there make acquaintances of many of the future 
men of the State, and contract friendships that would be of 
service to them in the part they were destined to act in the great 
drama of life. 

He studied law, but never applied for a license to practice. 
There is now in the possession of his grandson, William Eaton 
jr., (who shared all his confidence and affections, and is a worthy 
representative of his principles and virtues,) an old London- 
bound edition of Blackstone's Commentaries, which was used 
by him, and which is highly valued as a family relicjjr Like all 
persons of taste, he admired the classic elegance of this cele- 
brated work, but regarded its author as too subservient to 
power, and wanting in manliness and independence. He con- 



sidered Sir Edward Coke a much better friend to English 
liberty. 

He exhibited in early life those qualities which subsequently 
established for him a spotless and enduring fame, and which 
rendered his character one of the brightest ornaments of North 
Carolina and the Union. 

" Incorrupta fides nudaque Veritas, 
Mens conscia Kecti," 

were then, as ever afterwards, his. distinguishing character- 
istics. 

Mr. Macon was one of the few patriots of the American 
Revolution, who survived to his time to tell the trials of that 
eventful period. In the memorable year 1776, then not 18 
years old, and while a student at Princeton, New Jersey — burn- 
ing with youthful ardor, and fired by holy enthusiasm in the 
cause of public liberty — he abandoned his collegiate duties, and 
performed a short tour of military duty in a company of volun- 
teers, on the Delaware — thus evincing in his youth, an attach- 
ment to those principles, which, in after life, he supported with 
so much firmness, ability and undeviating consistency. This 
service over, he returned to college. In 1779, seeing the war- 
cloud gathering in his own dear South, and its conquest seriously 
threatened, he hastened home and joined the militia troops of 
his native State as a common soldier ; and continued with them 
till the provisional articles of peace were signed in November, 
1782. While in this trying, though to him grateful service, he 
gave proofs of that indifference for office and emolument, and 
that unaffected devotedness to his country's good, which his 
future history so conspicuously illustrated. He served in the 
ranks during the whole period, as a common soldier ; and though 
command and places of trust and confidence, as well as of ease 
and safety, were often tendered him, he invariably declined 
them — desiring only to occupy the station and share the hard- 
ships and perils common to the greatest portion of his fellow- 
soldiers; and although in very humble circumstances, as to prop- 
erty, he never would charge or consent to receive, nor did he 



ever receive, one cent for such services. Ho ^nve his "heart 
ami soul to the cause in which he had embarked; he loved his 
country, and, like a dutiful .son, gave her in time of need-— 
•' twas all he had'" — his personal services. And when that 
country — Messed with the smiles of prosperity, had grown to 
power and wealth, and, with a munificence deserving all praise, 
made liberal provision for the soldiers of the Revolution, still 
did he decline the proffered bounty Often has he been heard 
to say, disclaiming all imputation upon others, that no state of 
fortune could induce him to accept it. In those times, too, 
were developed the noble traits of Roman character which 
attracted to him the confidence and esteem of his countrymen. 
He became generally known throughout the State, and won for 
himself a popularity, to which his country is indebted for his 
long and useful and illustrious services in the public councils. 
His countrymen elected him, while yet in the army, and 
scarcely twenty-three years old, a member of the State Legis- 
lature, without his solicitation or even knowledge ; and reluctant 
to part with his comrades in arms, his first impulse was to decline 
this new service. This coming to the ears of General Green, 
in whose camp he was at the time stationed, on the left bank of 
the Yadkin, when the sudden flooding of that river arrested the 
pursuit of Cornwallis ; he sent for the young soldier — earnestly 
remonstrated with him — and finally succeeded in persuading him 
.that he could do more good as a member of the General Assem- 
bly than as a soldier. He saw it at once. 'Twas his country 
that called, and he readily obeyed the summons of the Governor 
to his new theatre of duty. After serving in this capacity many 
years, he was chosen, at the age of thirty-two, a member of 
Congress, in the House of Representatives, and took his seat at 
the 1st Session of the 2nd Congress, in 1791, which he filled 
uninterruptedly, under successive elections, till the winter of 
1815— '10, when he was chosen by the legislature a Senator in 
Congress — without his solicitation, and, in one sense, against 
his wish ; for his maxim was, "frequent elections and accounta- 
bility at short intervals," and that accountability to the. i>ropl,:. 
With a firm reliance upon the constancy of the people, and 



9 



their pure and unsophisticated judgment, guided by the prompt- 
ings of interest to do right, he was fully persuaded that recti- 
tude of conduct had nothing to fear from such an ordeal. 

In January, 1816, being then at Washington in the discharge 
of his duties as member of the House of Representatives, he 
resigned his seat in that body and assumed his new station as 
Senator. On that occasion he declined and rejected double pay 
for traveling, although abundant precedents entitled him to it. 
The legislature continued to him this honorable distinction and 
high trust till, induced by a sense of duty " from impaired 
health and waning memory," he resigned in November, 1828 — 
resigning at the same time the offices of Justice of the Peace 
and Trustee of the University of North Carolina, both of which 
he had filled for many, years. 

During his congressional career he was elected Speaker of 
the House of Representatives at the 1st Session of the 7th 
Congress, in 1801 ; and continued to preside over the delibera- 
tions of that body until the 10th Congress, when, not being 
able to attend at its commencement, from severe indisposition, 
a new incumbent was chosen. The duties of the chair were 
discharged by him with distinguished ability and impartiality, 
which secured the esteem and affection of his political friends, 
and won the confidence and admiration of his political adversa- 
ries. He was often elected President of the Senate, and the 
last time chosen to that station, courteously and unostentatiously 
declined its acceptance. The office of Postmaster General was 
twice tendered him, and in 1824 the use of his name as a can- 
didate for the Vice-Presidency was strongly solicited ; but office, 
however high, or emolument however great, had no charms for 
him. His engagement was always to his constituents, and that 
he was determined to fulfill to the letter. No lure could tempt 
him to lay it down. His was the ambition that prompted only 
to virtuous deeds. He sought, with great earnestness and untir- 
ing industry, the path of duty, and fearlessly pursued it — oblig- 
ing no one from favor or affection, and yielding nothing to the 
suggestions of resentment or passion. Indeed, there was no 
pa33ion he would gratify at the expense of duty. In 1835, his 
■2 



10 

fellow-citizens again called him from his cherished retirement, 
by electing him a member of the Convention, charged with the 
important duty of revising and reforming the Constitution of 
his native State — of which body he was chosen President by 
unanimous suffrage. In 1836, he was chosen Elector of Pres- 
ident and Vice-President, on the Republican ticket, and at the 
proper time repaired to the seat of government and performed 
the duty required of him — presiding at the same time over the 
deliberations of the College. This was the closing act of Mr. 
Macon's public life. He was spared to his country but a few 
months longer. 

Of his political creed, it is scarcely necessary to speak. His 
uncheqvered consistency — the frank and manly avowal of Ms 
opinions on all proper occasions — the prominent and distin- 
guished part it was his lot to act in support of every Republi- 
can administration — sufficiently proclaim it. Suffice it to say, 
he was a Republican of the Old School ; and possessed, without 
qualification or abatement, the affection and confidence of a 
Jeffeksox, a Madisox, a Moxroe, and a Jackson, and of the 
whole host of distinguished statesmen, with whom he was a co- 
laborer in the cause of democracy and free government. His 
political principles were deep-rooted. He became attached to 
them from early examination, and was confirmed in their cor- 
rectness from mature reason and long experience. They were 
the principles of genuine Republicanism ; and to them, through 
life, he gave a hearty, consistent, and available support. With 
them he never compromised ; and the greater the pressure, the 
more pertinaciously he stood by them. Adopting, to the fullest 
extent, the doctrine which allowed to man the capacity for, and 
the right of self-government — he was a strict constructionist 
of the Constitution of the United States, and never would con- 
sent — however strongly the law of circumstancers, the common 
plea of tyrants, might demand it — to exercise doubtful powers. 
Jealous of Federal authority, his most vigilant efforts were 
directed towards restraining it within due limits. A democrat 
by nature as Avell as by education, he was pursuaded, — that on 
the popular part of every government depend its real force — its 



11 



welfare — its security — its permanence — its adaptation to the 
happiness of the people. 

Stability and consistency were strong points in Mr. Macon 3 
character — formed upon his uncompromising adherence to prin- 
ciple and unswerving fidelity to duty. In his conversation, 
easy and unaffected ; in his manners and dress, a decided model 
of republican simplicity ; pretentious in nothing ; all who 
approached him felt conscious of receiving the civility and 
respect demanded by the nicest sense of propriety. To these 
characteristics did he owe much of that firm hold upon the 
confidence and .esteem of his countrymen which sustained him 
in the severe trials always to be met in the great battle of life. 
His was an enduring popularity ; it never waned ; it existed in 
as much vigor and freshness at the close of his life as at any 
former period ; it lived after him — and it is the source of the 
highest gratification to his numerous friends and admirers that 
he is still often quoted as the bright exemplar of -'the honest 
man and the u'lse and virtuous statesman." This feature in his 
life is the more striking when viewed in contrast with the politi- 
cal fortunes of others of the most exalted worth and eminent 
services, who failed to retain, to the last, that popular favor 
obviously due to their great merit and conspicuous usefulness. 
"'Tis true, 'tis pity 'tis true," that popular favor is often iost 
without fault. The popular heart, whose aims are always right, 
is often swayed by the satan-like influences and ill-bred preju- 
dices, manufactured by the selfish and designing, in workshops 
of iniquity — their own wicked brains — and the most patriotic 
and eminently useful, who deserve to be embalmed in the hearts 
of their countrymen, too often become victims to their vile 
practices. 

Though so long honored, and so many years the depositary of 
public honors and public trusts, Mr. Macop's was the rare merit 
of never having solicited any one to vote for him, or even inti- 
mated a wish that he should ; and though no one shared more 
fully the confidence of a large circle of influential friends, his 
is the praise of never having solicited the slightest interest for 
his own preferment. Public honors sought him ; he prized them 



12 

only as the reward of faithful and virtuous performance, and 
regarded place as the means merely of bringing him in nearer 
contact with public duty. He made no popular harangues, 
seeking to avoid the temptation of being batrayed into promises 
■which he could not or would not fulfiil, or into protestations 
which his heart would not sanction.- He was never found ram- 
bling through his Congressional District, seeking to engineer 
himself into popular favor by means, which, self-respect and a 
just sense of the rights of others, forbade. His rule was to 
attend, punctually, once a year, if health permitted, the first 
court held in each county in his district after his return from 
Congress. There he met his constituents — there he received 
their greetings and heard their complaints — there, without 
simulation, gave a full account of his stewardship. In his 
intercourse with them he was easy, frank and communicative — 
never withholding his opinions upon matters of pubic concern- 
ment, and always inviting them to the exercise of the utmost free- 
dom of thought and of speech, as the highest privilege of freemen, 
and the surest guard of liberty. He never attended, what, in his 
own characteristic language, he called "a man-dinner, ' ' regarding 
all such as political pageants, with too much of deceptious 
exterior, and too little calculated to better the popular heart or 
enlighten the popular mind. And, when upon his retirement 
from Congress, a large portion of his old constitutents tendered 
him the compliment of a public dinner, he declined it in a brief 
note, saying, that "he had naver been at such a show, and 
that he had already received the most gratifying proofs of their 
good will and esteem." 

To shun all ostentatious display and the emptiness of pride 
was, with him, a principle; and to do good to his fellow-men 
and to society, a rule of action, which he scrupulously observed, 
always abstaining, 1 * in the employment of his faculties and in 
the use of the abundant goods with which frugal industry had 
blessed him, from the gratification of any passion, the indul- 
gence of which prudence forbade to others less favored by for- 
tune — thus teaching, by both precept and example, the necessity 
of temperance, frugality and industry, as the surest and best 
foundation for contentment and plenty. 



13 



Of generous and unsuspicious nature, he never looked with 
uncharitableness on the actions of his fellow men, but, with the 
strength and armor of a well balanced mind, gave to them the 
calmest consideration, and assigned to each its appropriate 
place in the scale of Good and Evil. Of philosophic mind, 
subdued temper, and great self-command, he met the incide'nts 
and accidents of life, not with stoic indifference, but with quiet 
submission — yielding nothing to passion, less to despondency, 
and looking to passing events as to a school far instruction, 
and deducing from them useful lessons to guide him in the path- 
way of life. 

Of him it may be emphatically said, that he thought for 
himself, but reposing, with confidence, on his discriminating 
sense of justice and integrity of purpose, he gave to all subjects 
the fullest deliberation, and never jumped to conclusions in 
advance of his judgment. But when he had formed an opin- 
ion, he adhered to it with a fearless and virtuous inflexibility, 
which yielded to no importunity or persuasion. This, with 
some, subjected him to the charge of obstinacy. 

" Virtue itself, 'scapes not calumnious strokes." 

But, if this were a fault, it found a sanction in his unaffected 
love of justice, and evinced the absence of that facile disposi- 
tion which too often betrays into error, by sacrificing to a 
spirit of accommodation for the sake of a seeming but culpable 
amiability. His maxim was, "No compromise of Right." 
He utterly rejected the doctrine "that the end sanctifies the 
means." He had his singularities, yet they were not such as 
to "blur the face of virtue," but, forming exceptions to the 
fashionable foibles and manners of the times, were rather bright 
spots in his character that gave to it greater beauty. He was 
no copyist. He o'ermastered custom's ways, and " dared to be 
what he thought he ought to be." 

He was chary of promises, but always punctual and exact in 
performance ; would give his bond or note to no man — contract 
no debts — would buy nothing v/ithout paying for it. "Pay as 
you go" was a law to him, which he inflexibly observed. He 



14 

mastered all his wants, and kept them in strict subjection to 
reason. He would lend money to a friend, but never take 
interest. He classed labor among the Virtues— never called for 
help in anything he could do himself— labored often in his fields 
at the head of his slaves, during the intervals allowed from 
public duties, and topped all his own tobacco, when at home at 
the proper season, till the infirmities of age rendered him unable 
to stand the heat of the sun. He was fond of the chase, and 
indulged in l]is favorite amusement — the pursuit of the fox and 
the deer — as long as he lived. 

He spoke often in Congress — seldom long. His speeches 
-were always to the point ; strong, practical, sententious— often 
furnishing materials for the rhetorical displays of others. A 
most distinguished member once characterized his speeches as 
"dishes of the best materials served up in the best manner." 
Unless prevented by bad health, he was always in his seat — 
voted on every question — was punctual in attendance upon com- 
mitees, and ever ready at the call of duty. 

He was fund of reading, but his favorite study was Man. 
" He made choice of human nature for the object of his 
thoughts." To this predilection, did he owe that consummate- 
knowledge of the human character, and those practical lessons 
of wisdom of so much consequence in the conduct of life, which 
gave him rank among the '"wisest and best." 

There is no surer test of merit than is found in the favorable 
opinions of the wise and the good, formed in the unrestricted 
freedom of social intercourse, when the seal of reserve is 
unloosed, and neither the pride of ostentation nor the dread of 
criticism or censure, invites to concealment. Impressed with 
this truth, with a view to impart deeper interest to this sketch, 
by stamping the seal of verity upon the high and noble traits 
it portrays, recourse is had to the correspondence of eminent 
and distinguished statesmen to whom all the avenues of knowl- 
edge were opened by close intimacy, and long association in 
public life. Thomas Jefferson, whose monument is to be found 
in the Declaration of Independence, and in the enduring popu- 
lar veneration which he so largely shared, but a few weeks 



15 

after his first inauguration as President of the United States in 
1801, thus writes to Mr. Macon : " And in all cases, when an 
" office becomes vacant in your State, as the distance would 
" occasion a great delay, were you to wait to be regularly con- 
" suited, I shall be much obliged to you to recommend the best 
"characters. Theie is nothing I am so anxious about as 
" making the best possible appointments ; and no case in which 
" the best men are more liable to mislead us, by yielding to the 
" solicitations of applicants. For this reason your own spon- 
taneous recommendation would be desirable." Thus did Mr. 
J. stake an important portion of his administrative duties upon 
his high estimate of Mr. M.'s integrity and wisdom. Again, 
in another letter to Mr. Macon, the 24th March, 1826, Mr. 
Jefferson says: "My grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, 
" the bearer of this letter, on a journey to the North, will pass 
" two or three days, perhaps, in Washington. I cannot permit 
" him to do this without presenting him to a friend of so long 
" standing, whom I consider as the strictest of our models of 
" genuine republicanism. Let him be able to say, when you are 
" gone, but not forgotten, that he had seen Nathaniel Macon, 



v 



"upon whose tomb will be written, " Ultimus Romanorura 
" I only ask you to give him a hearty shake of the hand, on 
" my account, as well as his own, assuring you he merits it 
" as a citizen, to which I will add my unceasing affection to 
"yourself." A no less honorable tribute to his worth was paid 
by that distinguished statesman and honored and favorite son 
of Georgia, George M. Troup, long his political associate and 
intimate friend. In 1824, Wm. II. Crawford was the selected 
candidate for the Presidency, of the State-Rights Republican 
Party. His friends became alarmed at his rapidly declining 
health, and feared his disease might prove fatal or otherwise 
disqualify him. "In this unfortunate event," writes Mr. 
Troup, to Mr. Macon, in June, 1824, "I know of no person 
" who would unite so extensively the public sentiment of the 
" southern country in his favor as yourself. In such an 
" unhappy result, therefore, unless you forbid it, I will take 
"the liberty to propagate my opinion as diffusively as I can. 



16 

"In the administration of the general government we want 
"Virtu*! Virtue!! VIRTUE!!! 

Of Mr. Macon's claims to distinction, and to take rank on the 
roll of fame among the first of those who embellish the pages 
of American history — that sagacious statesman, John Ran- 
dolph, of Roanoke, whose perception of character was rarely 
at fault, in a letter to Mr. Macon, 14th December, 1828, thus 
speaks : " Your kind letter of the 10th is just now received. 
"Many, many thanks for it. I am truly concerned at the 
'• causes which justly occasion 'you uneasiness ; yet, when I 
"reflect, I know of no man in the United States whom I would 
" so soon be as yourself. There is no one who stands so fair 
"in the public estimation; and, with the single exception of 
" General Washington, there is not one of your times who will 
" staAd so fair with Posterity as yourself. There are various 
"sorts of reputations in the world. Some are obtained by 
" cringing and puffing, some are actually begged for and given 
" as an alms to importunity, some are carried by sheer impu- 
" dence. No one has had a better opportunity of observing 
"this than yourself; and there is no keener observer." 

Upon such testimonials as these from such high and pure 
sources, the reputation of this just and virtuous man may safely 
repose. They bespeak a name and a fame which dignify 
humanity, and invest his memory with a usefulness scarcely 
less to be prized than his services while living. 

This sketch would be imperfect, did it not notice the sugges- 
tive fact that in his latter years, Mr. Macon had painful misgiv- 
ings for the future of his country. 'T is true he did not parade 
his opinions before the public gaze, preferring rather to encour- 
age — not to alarm the popular mind ; but often when his thoughts 
were turned on what he deemed the political distempers and 
proclivities of the times, did he say to a friend in his own preg- 
nant language, " I am afraid all my labors have been for noth- 
ing ;" — obviously referring to his hardships in the tented field, 
and his arduous and well directed labors in the councils of his 
country — having devoted to these patriotic offices the greater 
part of & long life, commencing before manhood and ending 



IT 

with its close. At one period he reposed with entire confidence 
on the conviction that popular rights and public liberty were 
effectually secured by the Constitution of the United States ; 
but this hopeful reliance failed him as early as 1824. In a 
debate, at that period, in the Senate of the United States, on the 
bill for a subscription to the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal, 
Mr. Macon said, "He rose with a full heart, to take his last 
" farewell of an old friend that he had always admired and loved ; 

" he meant the Constitution of the United States 

" In times of old, whenever any question touching the Constitu- 
" tion was brought forward, it was discussed day after day ; that 
"time was now passed. . . '.' . . Do a little now 

" and a little then, and by-and-by they would render the gov- 
ernment as powerful and unlimited as the British Govern- 
" ment was. We go on deciding on these things without look- 
" ing at the Constitution ; and I suppose we will, in a few years, 
" do as was done in England. We shall appoint a committee 
" to hunt for precedents. My heart is full when I think of all 
" this ; and what is to become of us I cannot say. 
" His fears might be groundless ; they might be nothing but the 
" suggestions of a worn out old man ; but they were sincere, and 
"he was alarmed for the safety of this Government." 

In vain did he then, as he had often before, raise his warning 
voice against the dangers of inroads upon the Constitution. And 
now that the direst calamities are upon us, resulting from its 
utter overthrow and its base prostitution by wicked men to the 
worst and most wicked purposes — how loudly do they proclaim 
the unerring sagacity of his gifted and far-reaching mind. 

It was in private life the rare excellencies of this great and 
good man shone brightest. " To be, and not to seem," was bis 
maxim. Disdaining the pride of power — despising hypocrisy 
as the lowest and meanest device — with an honest simplicity 
and Roman frankness of manners — he gave to intercourse an 
ease and freedom which made his society sought after by all 
who knew him. Industry, economy and temperance, distin- 
guished the character of Mr. Macon during every portion of 
his long life : and he was always truly exemplary in the dis- 



18 

charge of every social and domestic duty. His integrity of 
heart — his love of justice and truth — commanded universal confi- 
dence, esteem and respect. In his dress, his manners, his 
habits and mode of life, he indulged no fondness for superflui- 
ties, yet never denied himself the use of what was necessary 
and convenient. The vainness of ostentation and the littleness 
of pride, were alike disgusting to him. His neighbors, even the 
humblest, visited him without ceremony ; and in all their diffi- 
culties applied to him for advice and comfort, which he always 
afforded in a manner the most acceptable. The society of his 
neighborhood, embracing an unusually large circle, seemed, as 
it were, to constitute but *fee family, of which he was the head 
and guide, and the rich stores of his mind were common pro- 
perty. Such Avas the moral influence he exerted that his exam- 
ple and precept were allowed the force of law. His heart was 
the seat of the benevolent affections ; and that he enjoyed 
while living, the happiness which attends their constant exer- 
cise, was sufficiently attested by the many of all ages and both 
sexes, who attended his interment with tears and deepest sorrow. 
And that he was not wanting in the offices of humanity, was 
proven by the heart-rending scene exhibited by the lamenta- 
tions of his numerous black family, when they were permitted 
to view, for the last time, his mortal remains. They, indeed, 
had cause to sorrow ; never had slaves a kinder master. In 
every thing connected with their health and comfort, he made 
most liberal and ample provision — in food, raiment, bedding and 
dwellings. In sickness, his attention to them were those of a 
kind and tender friend ; nor did he neglect their instruction 
and discipline.* 

He was married the 9th October, 1783, to Hannah Plummer, 
a lady of a highly respected family of his native county. She 
died on the 11th January, 1790. He never married again. 
They had three children, a son and two daughters. The son, 
Plummer Macon, died in his seventh year. The daughters, 



* The writer baring prepared and published a brief notice of Mr. Macon shortlj 
after bis death — much of which has been copied by other writers — deems no 
apology necessary for baring freely used it in this sketch. 



19 



while yet very young — being deprived of the tender care and 
affectionate nurture of a fond mother — were left to depend upon 
his counsels and guidance to fit them for future usefulness and 
happiness. He made companions of them ; won their affection 
and confidence ; and made these the incentives to obedience and 
usefulness. Well did they repay his anxieties and watchfulness. 
Tliey were what he wished them to be — amiable, intelligent, 
interesting — in manners easy and unaffected} and untinctured 
by fondness for the parade of appearances. They were both 
married to highly respectable gentlemen ; the eldest, Betsy K. 
Macon, to William Martin, of Granville ; the youngest, Seig- 
niora Macon, to William Eaton, Sr., of Warren. Their loss 
was the source of deep and heart-rending affliction. The forti- 
tude of the philosopher gave way to the sensibilities of nature — 
for he entertained for them an affection as warm and tender as 
ever glowed in the bosom bf a doting parent. 

He died the 29th June, 1837, at Buck Spring, in the county 
of Warren, in the 79th year of his age. Some three or four 
days previously, he was partially confined to the house — enjoy- 
ing, however, with his usual flow of spirits, the society and 
conversation of his numerous friends, who visited him daily, 
and watched, with anxious and distressful solicitude, every 
symptom that threatened to snatch from them their venerated 
friend and benefactor. In the morning of that day he rose 
early as usual — dressed himself with habitual neatness — conversed 
cheerfully with those around him, occasionally walking in the 
room and lying on the bed. It was about 10 o'clock when he 
felt the supreme hour had come. In full possession of his mind, 
he met the summons with a composure and placid resignation 
which none but the just can feel, and sunk to rest without pain 
or suffering. 

Mr. Macon desired that no monumental stone or storied urn, 
or even an indosure, should mark the spot where his remains 
were to lie. He chose it himself on a sterile ridge, and pointed 
it out to the friend whom he selected as his Executor, saying, 
; 'it is so barren no one will ever desire to cultivate it;" and 
directed a heap of stones, in a lot hard by, picked up from before 



20 



the plough, to be placed over him. saying, "they were of no 
value, and nobody would ever want them." Thus, exhibiting 
towards the closing scenes of life the same unpretending 
modesty, and scrupulous regard for the rights and convenience 
of others, which had signalized his whole life. His own native 
woods, in all their wild rudeness, received into their bosom the 
friend of the people, the lover of his country, and one whose 
example will ever remain for virtuous emulation, with nothing 
to mark his last resting place but a heap of stones which hi3 
friends and neighbors, in sad rivalry, piled up over him. 

Such was Nathaniel Macon, of North Carolina — the kind 
neighbor — the warm-hearted friend — the affectionate relative — 
the fearless advocate of public liberty — the enlightened states- 
man — the just man. He is gone, but his memory lives in the hearts 
and affections of his countrymen, and in the recorded pages of 
his country s History. 

The writer of this knew him well, and is happy in being able 
to pay this imperfect tribute of affection and gratitude to the 
memory of one, who was both his friend and instructor, and 
feels a pride in acknowledging his lasting indebtedness for the 
many advantages derived from his lessons of wisdom and expe- 
rience during a long period of uninterrupted friendship and 
intimacy. 

Poplak Mount. ) 
2nd July, 1862. / 



XOTE. 
There h»? been no purpose to review the public life of Mr. Macon; that will 
become the pleasing task of the future Historian. But, it U proper, on tnis 
occasion, in justice to him and to historic truth, to correct a mistake (doubtless 
unintentional,) in regard to his eourte on what is so well known as the Minowri 
Compromise, committed by Mr. Benton in his " Thirty Years View." In that valu- 
able work, p. 8, the author says, ''This Compromise was sustained by the united 
" voieee of the southern Senators," and that " the unanimity of the slave States 
" in the Senate, where the measure originated, is shown by its journal, not on the 
" motion to insert the section constituting the Compromise (for on that motion the 
" yea* and ««}» were not taken, ) but on the motion to strike it out, when they were 
" takes, and showed 30 rotes for the Compromise and 15 against it, every one of 
" the latter from non-ilaveholding States; the former comprehending every slaye 



21 

'' State vote present, and a few from the North." He then gives a- list of the Sen- 
ators claimed to bo for the Compromise, and among them Mr. Macon. It is sub- 
mitted that this view is not sustained by the Journal of the Senate, as the follow- 
ing examination will show. 

In the Session of 1819-'20, as early as 3rd January, 1820, a bill for the 
admission of the State of Maine into the Union passed the House of Repre- 
sentatives; and in the Senate, a committee, to which it was referred, reported 
as an amendment, a clause admitting also Missouri on an equal footing. An 
instant attempt was made to separate the two bills, but failed; (Mr. Macon 
both spoke and voted in favor of the conjunction,) and various propositions were 
also made to exclude slavery from Missouri, which likewise failed. Whereupon, 
Mr. Thomas, of Illinois, moved to insert a farther amendment, as an 8th Section, 
excluding slavery from all territory acquired under the name of Louisiana, which 
lies North of 36° SO' North Latitude, not included within the limits of Missouri. 
This is the far-famed Missouri Compromise, and here is a motion to insert it by/t 
Northern member, and, upon which, the ayes and noes were called, and resulted, 
ayes 34, noes 10, (every man voting,) Mr. Macon in the negative. See Journal 
1819-20, page 166. The question then recurred, "shall the amendments be en- 
grossed and the bill read a third time as amended ?" It was carried in the affir- 
mative — ayes 24, noes 20 : Mr. Macon again in the negative — only one other South- 
ern member voting with him — Judge Smith, of South Carolina. See Journal, page 
166, 1819-'20. Here then, we see Mr. Macon, anxious as he was to admit both 
States, voting with all Northern members except one, to reject the bill — that is 
against the admission of both Maine and Missouri, because the Compromise Sec- 
tion had been agreed to ; for the bill, without that Section, would have been pre- 
cisely what he desired. But this is not all. When the bill was returned to the 
Senate from the House of Bepresentatives, with their disagreement to the amend- 
ments, and a motion was made to recede, we find that Mr. Macon called for a division, 
which being agreed to, the question was first taken on receding from so much of the 
amendments as provides for the admission of Missouri without restriction — ayes 21, 
noes 23. Mr. Macon voting no : in effect against separating the bills. The question 
was then taken on receding from the 8th Section, (the Compromise,) ayes 11, noes 33. 
Mr. Macon voting aye — in effect to strike out the Compromise Section. (See Jonrnal 
1819-'20, page 189,) that is to reject it. A committee of conference was then 
appointed, and in their report on 2nd March recommended that the Senate recede 
from their amendments to the Maine Bill, and that the two Houses strike out of the 
Missouri Bill the 4th Section, restricting slavery in that State, and insert a new 
Section prohibiting slavery North of 36° 30' North Latitude — substantially to 
separate the two bills, and to render the Missouri Bill precisely what it was when 
it passed the Senate as a part of the Maine Bill, and against which Mr. Macon 
voted. At this stage, the Senate proceeded to consider the bill for the admission 
of Missouri, which had passed the House of Representatives with a slavery restric- 
tion. This restriction being stricken out, Mr. '1 homos, of Illinois, moved to insert 
a new Section prohibiting slavery North of 36° 30' North Latitude, (the same, 
totidem verbis, he had offered to the Maine bill, as the 8th Section, which had passed 
the Senate, and upon which the sense of the Senate had been three several times 
had. Mr. Macon always in opposition to it.) This was agreed to without a divi- 
sion. It was acquiesced in, no doubt, with a tacit understanding that the previous 
votes of members should be received as indicating their respective opinions, for it 
is worthy of note, that in the Senate, frivolous calls for the ayes and noes were 



99 



never indulged in. Members abstained from vexing the ear and patience of the 
Body with euch call? np->o rjuest:-n= which had been solemnly and deliberately 
decided. It being thus agreed to, (just a.- Mr. Benton states,) a motion was made 
to strike it out, (as Mr. B-nton also states.) by Mr. Trimble, of Ohio, but it was 
not simply a motion to strike out the compromise Section, but to ttrike ovt so much 
■A' the Section as prohibited slavery only North of 36° 30' North Latitude., andto 
i -crt a clause prohibiting it South as well as North of the line. The clause pro- 
posed to be ttrivben out, and that to be inserted, equally affirmed the principle of 
proh iiition : »o that an affirmative or negative vote would alike have sanctioned 
the power. It was carried in the negative— ayes 12, noes 30. See Journal, page 
202. Mr. Macon voted no : preferring, if the power was to be usurped, that it- 
application should be confined to the narrowest limits ; and it would seem that no 
ingenuity eould torture this vote into an approval of " The Compromise.'' That 
this is the motion upon which Mr. Benton relies to show "' The unanimity of the 
slWe States'' is obvious, because the number of negative votes (30) he state;, and 
th$ list furnished by him of members so voting, exactly correspond with the Jour- 
nal, (he commits a slight oversight in stating the yeas to be 15, making the num- 
be- of Senators -t-5, when there were but 44, all told,) and ieeow»»this was the only 
motion, at any stage of the bill, or at any time, in the progress of the controversy, 
"To strike out," in any sense, the Compromise Section. If this, then, is the au- 
thority relied upon by the author of " 30 Tears View/' (and it seems that there is 
no other.) there is an insuperable difficulty in concurring in his conclusions. 

In addition, it i? proper to state, that Mr. Macon participated early in the debate 
on this exciting subject : and in the course of his remarks said, that " The gentle- 
man from Rhode Island, Mr. Bnrrill, seemed to think the question about slaves 
ought to be touched very delicately. He lid touch it so : but there it no poirer in 
the General Government to touch it in any tray." It is hardly to be supposed, that, 
with this conviction, he would impugn the doctrines of his whole life by assenting 
to the exercise of a power whose existence he denied. He looked teithin for the 
rule of right : and, his judgment sanctioning, no extraneous circumstances, how- 
ever pressing, be they of expediency or of entreaty, could induce him to swerve 
from it. 

The record, then, is the witness to Mr. Macon's position on the '•' Missouri Com- 
promise :" and it is offered in entire confidence, that it affords indisputable proof 
that that position was one of determined and pertinent opposition. E.